Monday, May 16, 2011


     Watching the slow, demoralizing process of dementia take my Mother’s mind has brought enough heartache over the last ten years to drown in a lake of tears. It is a horrible thing when life is so cruel, but through all the ups and downs it has also brought us closer together. Sometimes I need a well of patience to answer the same questions all day long, but then she had to manufacture a geyser of love and tolerance to handle my teenage years.  In lucid moments, when her memory first started to go, she had days when she was fully aware of the inescapable condition creeping up on her. The awareness that she would eventually lose control of her mind and body filled her with terror. And those were the hardest times. I hid my tears and hugged her often. I promised her she would come to no harm. She’s unaware of her condition now and that’s a small blessing for an independent, adventurous woman who is sliding into total helplessness.  

     Once in a long while a cog in the slipping gears of her mind catches and she remembers something of our shared history, although she rarely recognizes me anymore. I had been warned that people with Alzheimer’s become testy, lose their sense of humor and eventually shriek like gibbons when asked to do something simple, like bathe. But Mom is still cooperative and hilarious. In the worst of the transition from consciousness to her current child-like state she announced “I can’t believe a word I say anymore!”  But no matter how bad her day is, a simple act of kindness has always brought her back. A few days ago she was leaning over on the couch wide eyed; unable to sit straight because she couldn’t figure out which way was up. I took her hand and told her what a good Mom she has been. She smiled, sat up and said “Do you really think so? That’s nice of you, but did I have children?”

     Later, when I was on hold with the phone company and she understood I was annoyed she decided to do something about it. She marched in and out of the room in different hats announcing “Now I’m a cowboy”, “Now I’m a clown.” And once she had me laughing she crept down the hall whispering, “I’m going to go scare your Dad!”

     It amazes me that her mind rarely recalls her past, but still has the capacity to give and receive joy and kindness.  She is no longer the whole person I used to know, but remarkably the best part of her still shines and for now that’s enough. 
     The pictures were actually one of Mom's ideas, she asked me to make silly faces with her in the mirror.   

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